The Mod and Stornoway

16 10 2011

It’s Royal National Mod time in Stornoway.

Massed gangs of Gaelic Choirs from all over the world are descending on the Hebridean capital to fight it out to see who will be the last choir standing. Although the requirement for bloodshed is greatly reduced from previous years, the sense of competition is still high and civilians are reminded not to venture out after sunset, less they end up in the cross fire.

The Mod has come to Stornoway on many occasions over the centuries and so a brief recap of some of the more memorable visits is given here.

In 1989, the Mod was tarnished by the undignified spat that developed when Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan were disqualified from the Mixed Doubles Competition. Although riding high in the Pop Charts at the time, the Aussie pair failed to impress the Judges with their version of ‘Ibhi Ada’ and a Gaelic version of the theme from Neighbours (‘Tha Neighbours, a h-uile duine neeeds math Neighbours’ ).  Kylie and Jason stormed out of the Town Hall after receiving only 5 votes  and headed straight to the Clachan. After a few swift half’s, the pair started to smash up the toilets and were only removed after a barman convinced them that a passing collie was in fact Bouncer, and they sped off in hot pursuit.

In 1979, another unexpected pairing in the Mixed Doubles led to unsightly scenes on the stage in the Garry Room. Newly elected Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher surprised political pundits by agreeing to sing ‘Oran Calum Sgaire’ with Labour Leader Micheal Foot.  Despite Foot getting lessons from his cousin, a local Professor, Thatcher’s  constant drive for perfection meant poor Foot was constantly slagged off by the Iron Lady. Foot made several attempts to get the song in the right key, but as Thatcher famously said ‘The Lady’s Not For Tuning.’  It’s also a little known fact that Thatcher joined Runrig on stage to play the chanter at their career defining performance in the Seaforth Hotel.

In the early 60’s, a spot of confusion led to gangs of parka wearing/scooter riding Mods arriving on the Loch Seaforth expecting to cause trouble in the town, only to find that it was music of a totally different sort that was on offer. In the spirit of helping out, the local Dockers agreed to take on the Mods in a fight down on the Braighe Beach. Afterwards Roger Daltrey of The Who almost won the Gold Medal with his version of  ‘Canan Nan Gaidheal’ but was disqualified for hitting the Judges as he spun his microphone around his head. The Who’s award winning rock opera ‘Tommy’ was inspired by the band watching Tommy Darkie playing the box at the after Mod ceilidh in The Crit.

In 1580, Sir Walter Raleigh stumbled upon the Mod by accident when he sailed into Stornoway Harbour thinking it was El Dorado. Instead of gold doubloons he found Gold Medals instead. Walter was a dab hand at the fiddle and impressed An Comunn Gaidhealach enough to let him play in several competitions which he won easily. To this day the Fiddlers Raleigh is held in honour of the brave explorer.